5/11/20 BLOG 22: THE RECIPE FOR A HEALTHY MIND
Isla, our new Women’s Worker for Fife and Forth Valley let slip to me that she enjoys cooking as a form of self-care – so she was very quickly asked to write a blog for Together Alone! Here are her musings on what cooking has meant to her during the pandemic, as well as recipes for 3 hearty winter warmers to get you in the cooking mood.
Prior to the current pandemic, I have always struggled to unwind after a stressful day. I find it hard to switch off and relax and have often found myself at night counting my breathing to help me switch off. For around a year I had sleepless nights and had vivid dreams which made it extremely difficult to break away from reality and allow my brain to find tranquillity.
Then, lockdown happened; “stay home”. At the time I was in the middle of writing my dissertation for university and already felt super stressed. I struggled greatly with not being able to see my parents, family and friends. The tv and radio were on all day, executing the severity of the pandemic. I felt anxious that I may never see some of my family members again. I was only leaving my home to pop to the shop or walk my dog. I felt like reality was slowly slipping away from me.
I began to recognise that the only part of my day where I felt calm and in control amongst all the chaos was when I was cooking or baking, it almost felt like meditation. It provided me with an opportunity to have a handle on what I was doing, and I can honestly say it helped me massively throughout lockdown. I managed to keep myself busy, baking almost every day and cooking every night.
I find that cooking allows me to express my creativity and this is something which I have always struggled with. I love to push myself out of my comfort zone and challenge myself with trying out new dishes. Sometimes they don’t always turn out well so I will keep trying until I have found a recipe which works. I feel like this attitude has helped me in my daily life as it pushes me to succeed even when things don’t always work out.
It's really important to shop smarter and to plan ahead. I find this helps me remain within a budget as I know exactly what I am buying when I go to the shops and I don’t overspend. This means that I can enjoy cooking fresh and healthy meals which don’t cost a fortune! The pumpkin used for the Pumpkin soup and the apple’s used for the Apple Crumble were picked from a local farm and only cost me a couple of pounds. I’m aware that not everyone has a farm nearby to them however and these can also be purchased cheaply and easily from any supermarket.
A great way of saving money is also to prevent waste, so any of those veggies you have lying in the fridge at the end of the week...don’t waste them! Chop them up, pop them into a pot with a stock cube, water and some seasoning and you have created a beautiful, hearty, healthy, pot of soup! Meals like this can be made in a big batch and frozen (if you’ve got the freezer space) to prevent any further waste and can be defrosted and eaten over a number of days.
Cooking can help you to focus your mind on something positive and it helps to relieve stress. I find that cooking really helps me to clear my head and relieve tension. I have to tell my brain to slow down as I process each step of recipes to ensure I get them correct and this helps me to unravel a bit and get into the zone!
I feel that it can also boost self-esteem as it’s something you get better at the more you do it. You can try to create more complex dishes and each time you succeed; it feels good! I get so much out of other people trying what I cook or what I bake, I love knowing that people enjoy something which I can provide to them and that has massively helped my confidence.
Whether you are cooking for yourself, a partner or your family, there is nothing more satisfying than being able to sit down and enjoy something that YOU have made. It is all done by you, no help from anyone, just you! If you live with a partner or your family, it is a great way of bringing you closer together and provides an opportunity to spend quality time.
I love to take photographs of meals I cook, it really helps when I am struggling with new ideas, I can look back on meals I have made previously and I can recreate them or adapt them slightly to create an entirely new dish. I find it very rewarding when I photograph a good picture of meals that I make, it’s almost an art in itself! Kathryn Rattray’s masterclass helped me a lot with this, as well as how to play around with the different light to capture the best image possible.
The three recipes that I have included are comfort meals, great for the darker nights when all you want to do is cosy up with nice warm, hearty food. They are meals that I have had growing up as a child made by my grandparents, meals that I associate with Scotland and this time of year. Substitutes can also be used like, replacing the pumpkin with butternut squash or the apple’s with plums. The ingredients I have used are just a personal choice, but you can easily mix it up depending on what you enjoy eating and what is available locally to you! The recipes are easy to make, using few ingredients and I hope that if you try them out you enjoy them just as much as me and my family have.
So here is my mini cookery masterclass! Starting off with something almost everyone likes – soup!
1 Pumpkin or 1 Butternut Squash
2 Red Peppers
300ml Single Cream
1 Litre Vegetable Stock – this requires 2 stock cubes
Salt and Pepper
Next up is that wintery winner…Macaroni cheese
MACARONI CHEESE - SERVES 5
500g macaroni pasta
400g Extra Mature Cheddar Cheese
3 Tablespoons Butter
3 Tablespoons Plain Flour
1 Tablespoon English Mustard
1 Pint Semi-Skimmed Milk
Handful of Cherry Tomatoes
And finally, a winter warmer of a dessert
APPLE CRUMBLE - SERVES 5
Ingredients for the crumble topping:
300g Plain Flour
180g Brown Sugar
Ingredients for the apple filling:
50g Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Plain Flour
2 Tablespoons Cinnamon
Thanks so much to Isla for her lovely words and recipes, as well as her absolutely delicious looking photographs. I’m going to enjoy trying to perfect her crumble recipe! Let us know if you try any of the recipes out, or if there’s anything else related to self-care and Together Alone you would like to chat to us about! You can contact us here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking forward to chatting!